Republicans push for calm as a rural library hangs in the balance
A public library in Warren County in the Shenandoah Valley could close October 1st if a dispute over book content and local control doesn’t get resolved later this week. But in the face of heated rhetoric, local Republican leadership is asking for calm.
The Samuels Public Library was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year as part of the national effort by conservative groups to ban books based on LGBTQ content. The local Board of Supervisors has withheld three-quarters of the library’s over $1 million budget, and library advocates say it’ll have to shut its doors after nearly two centuries if the money isn’t distributed.
The library removed no books but has since rearranged collections by age groups. It also offered age restrictions to library cards at a parent’s request.
But vitriol against library employees, so bad the Library Director stepped down in August, has led Warren County Republican Party chairman and turkey farmer Robert Hupman to push for peace.
“There's a lot of good folks on both sides and I think it spiraled out of control. And now we’re seeing more and more backlash,” Hupman told Radio IQ. “No one wants to see the library shut down.”
Hupman also pushed back on concerns from those further to the right who have tried to have books banned from public libraries.
“It's First Amendment rights,” he said, comparing it to his Second Amendment right to bear arms. “I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do [with my firearms] as long as it doesn’t evade your constitutional rights.”
“If it's a book you particularly disagree with, you tell your kids not to read that material,” he added, hoping the community could move passed recent divisions and reunite to keep the library's doors open.
The Samuels Library Board of Trustees and the Warren County Board of Supervisors are set to enter negotiations Tuesday. Hupman said he was satisfied with changes the library made so far. Supervisors are pushing to have some library board members picked by the county. Samuels Library has so far voted against such efforts citing its status as a public-private partnership. Board members did not want to comment directly until after the next round of negotiation.